Rebels fight Syrian troops over airbase

2012-11-03 17:30

Beirut - Syrian rebels launched a dawn assault on Saturday on a strategic airbase in the north of the country, trying to disrupt strikes by warplanes and helicopters that pound rebel-held towns and give the regime of President Bashar Assad a major edge in the civil war.

The assault, reported by activists, comes a day before the start of a key international conference in Qatar at which the United States and its allies aim to reorganize the opposition's political leadership and unite their ranks. The leadership-in-exile has been widely seen as ineffective and out of touch with rebel fighters on the ground.

Rebels forces attacked the Taftanaz airbase early on Saturday morning in fighting with government forces that continued into the afternoon, the anti-regime activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Joining Syrian rebels in the attack were fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic militant group made up of foreign jihadis, according to the Observatory. Al-Nusra fighters, who are considered among the most experienced and disciplined among the opposition forces, have led attacks on other airbases in the north in past months.

Attack by rebels

The Taftanaz base mainly houses military helicopters, near the main highway between the capital Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, where rebels and the military have been battling for control for months.

Online activist videos said the show the battle showed rebels firing rockets and smoking rising over buildings and an airstrip. An activist speaking in the video identifies it as an attack by rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra on the base.

The videos appear genuine and are consistent with other Associated Press reporting in the area.

Airstrikes have been one of the most effective and feared weapons of the regime in the civil war. Rebels managed to seize control of a pocket of territory around Aleppo, but government warplanes and helicopters continue to blast rebel-held towns from the air. In the fierce fighting over Aleppo itself, warplanes almost daily swoop in to strafe or bomb rebel-held neighbourhoods.

International community at a loss

Activists say more than 36 000 people have been killed during Syria's 19-month-old conflict, which began in March last year as a largely peaceful uprising but has transformed into a brutal civil war.

Several attempts for a truce in the fighting have failed, including the UN-supported four-day ceasefire that was meant to coincide with a major Muslim holiday last week, leaving the international community at a loss for ways to end the war.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday called for a major leadership overhaul and suggested Washington would handpick more representative leaders, including those fighting the regime. The opposition conference the Qatari capital, Doha, starts on Sunday.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-11-03 19:15

    . Any move to stop these assad terrorists from dropping cluster bombs on residential areas, and bombing Syria into rubbles must be applauded. These 'rebels' aka oppostion ,many only having homemade rifles, are amzingly brave, fighting this monstrous army, supplied with most sophisticated military hardware by these Russian bastards, and than with the support of these highly paid Russian 'experts' and 'advisers' The only POSSIBLE reason this assad scumbag can't defeat these disorganised opposition can only be that the by far MAJORITY of Syrians support the efforts to overthrow this assad dog!!!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-04 16:08

      Known to Patrick, no-one else. Patrick makes up what he wants to believe.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-11-04 17:57

      Patrick, You are without any doubt the most childish person on this site, These 'international known terrorists groups' ONLY exist in your violent mind !!!! Are you not late for your 'boeremag' meeting !!!!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-11-04 18:23

      Patrick, Ok, now slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwlyyyyy These 'facts' ONLY exists in your violent fantasy mind. NOBODY, not even those Russian BASTARDS and those SLIMY Chinese, EVER talk about 'foreign' terrorists groups!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-11-04 21:07

      . You are deranged !!!

  • duncan.gill1 - 2012-11-03 23:16

    The opposition conference the Qatari capital, Doha, starts on Sunday. Who is betting the Yanks will interfere here as well and disrupt what could be a sane attempt to rein in some of these radical murderers and gain some real credibility!At least then we could of hoped for a negotiated settlement that will end this carnage of simple human beings,that has been instigated by the West from the outset!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-04 04:34

      Dunkie believes Al-Quaida is fabricated by the US to destabilize the stable Middle East. His words. Here he would negotiate with a brutal, cold dictator. Hitter and Stalin would have loved the guy.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-11-04 06:29

      . And so would have john voster and pw botha. That are the type of guys this assad monster can understand; Brutal oppression against the majority !!!!!

  • duncan.gill1 - 2012-11-05 18:55

    Lets hope they don't get their hands on aircraft...imagine the sky over Syria full of Radical Islamic Arab kamakazi's and if they can NOT navigate then Israel better watch out..they could land up being plan "B"

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